Visiting Cuba is like going back in time. As a traveller and photographer, Cuba’s ‘stop in time’ makes for a rich experience away from overdeveloped tourist destinations however one cannot be blind to the Cubans’ standard of living.
I prefer destinations that are not commercialized with old architecture and less emphasis on materialism. I love to see how people live and learn about the culture’s history and values. Cuba definitely offers this and more. Tourism is very important to Cuba but the efforts have been focussed on resorts catering to Europeans and Canadians with little emphasis on brand name shopping and jewellery. Most vacationers come to relax on their beautiful sandy beaches with all inclusive plans. Some may venture out to Havana or Trinidad if their resort is close enough to warrant the trip. Nature lovers can plan for hikes or cycling trips inland, away from the resorts, and experience a different aspect of Cuba.
Cities like Havana and Trinidad offer bars, restaurants, and plenty of authentic Cuban music. Havana offers many historical attractions that are easily accessible by foot and you can also plan a tour in one of the 1960’s taxis. The architecture feels very European with a Spanish influence but unfortunately much of it is in need of repair. The more ‘touristy’ areas are better maintained and they often pillage other buildings further away to obtain the missing parts. Trinidad is more colonial and very charming. If you want to shop until you drop then you’re on the wrong island. Inland tourist destinations mostly consist of old Russian built hotels and you’ll often see old Russian trucks on the less travelled roads. One of the nicest places to visit inland is Hanabanilla. There you’ll find a a huge lake with landscape looking no different than what you’d find in Canada except for the interspersed palm trees. You could barely tell you were on a tropical island!
As to the Cuban people – they are warm and friendly. The pace is slower and makes room for an expanded social life. Education is free and accessible for all and so is health care. Salaries are regulated and salary differences between university educated and non university educated people is minimal. Career motivation is mostly based on interest versus monetary compensation and people often have more than one degree/career. The standard of living is much lower than North America and has greatly suffered once Cuba lost Russia’s support. Tourism and trade agreements with South American countries